The end of the Empire?

Iconic Durham bar closes, plus a few updates

If you haven’t been to Durham in a while, be prepared: Changes are afoot. I decided to visit recently because I’d run into a former Empire Club bartender who alerted me to the death of Richard Woods, who had owned the bar for over a decade. He was 58.

Word had it that some regulars were poised to purchase the place, but upon stopping by last week, I found a vague note on the door about reopening “soon.” Then I ran into a different former bartender who told me that that deal had fallen through and the bar was still in probate court.

Years ago, while helping a fellow CN&R editor “research” Butte County bars, we learned that the Empire—which was known as a generally comfortable locals hangout—is actually the oldest continuously run bar in the county. I used to make semi-regular trips there for pool league matches and dug the vibe (and the free popcorn!), though teams haven’t played there in over a year. I hope its legacy continues in some way or another.

Something about Mary At the beginning of the year, I wrote about the closing of the Kwikee Food Mart on the far north side of town, where regulars would drive from far away to find Mary’s famous fried chicken and tamales. Back then, her future was uncertain. But do not fear! I have found her. While in Durham, I stopped by the Durham Country Market, where I’d heard Mary had relocated. The rumors were true. Turns out owner Mike Jaradah also owned the Kwikee. The clerk said he was happy to offer her food daily (except Sunday).

Another update Back in April, I announced the opening of a belly-dance studio on Sixth Street by the ladies behind BellySutra, regular performers in the Keep Chico Weird Talent Show and at the LaRocca Vineyards Tasting Room. Well, they’ve changed the business name to Dangerous Hips BellyDance Studio. Learn more about their bellydance classes and other events at

Gotta love arts As a writer, I have a great appreciation for the arts and humanities. And those are subjects that have—along with things like physical education—been cut from school budgets. So, I am happy to give some props to US Bank Foundation and Enloe Medical Center for donating $10,000 and $5,000, respectively, to help students attend Chico Performances’ Field Trip shows. At $5 a pop, that’s a lot of kids who get to see some amazing artists!

Best of the best One of my favorite issues of the CN&R each year, despite the huge amount of work it takes to put together, is the Best of Chico issue. And yes, it’s that time again—the polls are open! So, get thee to a computer (or smartphone) and log onto for all the details.